Quentin Tarantino, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth and Michael Madsen
Holed Up With The Hateful Eight
by Jay S. Jacobs
It’s always a spectacular when a new Quentin Tarantino film rides into theaters. The writer and director has been well-known for his hyper-intelligent dialogue and rampant violence since the 1992 release of his debut film Reservoir Dogs. Since then, the former video store clerk and self-proclaimed film geek has put together an acclaimed and eclectic body of work which includes Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. As a screenwriter only, he also did True Romance, From Dusk Till Dawn and Natural Born Killers.
Hot on the heels of Django Unchained (well, three years later, but that is a normal turnaround time for a Tarantino film), the director has decided to do his second straight old-school western film. However, The Hateful Eight is very different in content and style than the colorful and flashily-violent Django. Instead, Hateful is almost like an old parlor mystery transferred to the rugged old west.
The great majority of the action takes place in a single saloon, where a bounty hunter (played by Kurt Russell) and his captured prey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) encounter a group of strangers (including Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Samuel L. Jackson), all of whom have mysterious backgrounds and agendas. It leads to an intense standoff between characters, with bloody consequences.
Tarantino, who is a huge proponent of film over digital technology, also has decided to film The Hateful Eight in 70mm. This has lead to a limited release “road show,” an old-fashioned movie-going experience in which the film will play in classic old movie houses around the country (which are still equipped to show film), complete with an opening overture, additional scenes and an intermission.
A couple of weeks before The Hateful Eight starts its limited 70mm release in theaters (spreading wide a week later), the writer/director and most of the staff held a press conference to discuss the film at the legendary Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. As we sat in the crowded conference room, we weren’t surprised to find the avuncular filmmaker taking the lead, but everyone had interesting things to say about the movie and working with Tarantino.
Quentin Tarantino: Thanks for coming out everybody! That traffic was hell. Everyone’s been telling me about bricks raining down on New Yorkers over the last couple of days.
Bruce Dern: I quite like the rain actually, it never rains in California.
Tell us about the road show.
Quentin Tarantino: The road show opens on December 25th. It’ll go for two weeks. We’ll lose some of the screens after second week, but we’ll keep some of them. Be exclusive for one week starting December 25th and we open wide on the 31st, but we’ll keep the 70mm projection going on. The Weinsteins (ed. note: Harvey and Bob, the owners of the studio releasing the film) have just done an amazing thing. Just to put it in perspective, Warner Brothers threw their entire weight behind Christopher Nolan when he did Interstellar. Nevertheless they only played in about 11 venues in the course of his 70mm run. We are playing in 44 markets in 100 theaters with our road show.
Not only that, they literally are some of the biggest, nicest movie palaces still left. Like The Music Box in Chicago, The Hollywood Theater in Portland… I’m spacing right now… the Fox Theater in Detroit, the Cinerama Dome for two weeks in Los Angeles. It’s just really wonderful. All the places that have 70mm capabilities, we utilize them. Other places we just moved the screens in and created it.
I remember talking about it when we first had a discussion. It was like: Look, we should be like Neil Diamond coming into town. Or we should be like Book of Mormon. We go into big venues. Maybe they don’t even show movies anymore, but we’ll set up our big screen and we’ll set up our projectors and we’ll let it rip. It has been a Herculean effort and they pulled it off. We are screening in a hundred theaters between US and Canada, I’m very, very proud. The advanced tickets go on sale today.
There you go, you get your money’s worth. It is a hell of a night or afternoon at the movies. So talk to me a little about…
Quentin Tarantino: One thing I want to show actually before we move off of that. We’re trying to do this like the old-school road shows. When we think of movies like Lawrence of Arabia or Ryan’s Daughter, we’ve all probably seen the regular release version. The road shows had an overture. They had an intermission. They were a little longer. Ours is about seven minutes longer, just for the road show version. You also get – and we just got them hot off the presses today – this really cool program. (Holds up a program.) They all come with their own little pin up, ready for your locker, with the different Hateful Eight people on it. You get that. I even think we are giving out t-shirts that you get for your ticket, “I saw The Hateful Eight in 70mm.” It’s pretty cool. We’re hoping it’s going to be a really good party.
I’m curious in terms of content, going back to the beginning we’ve seen Western influences in your films. Clearly Django operated in that genre. This continues that among other genres kind of mixed in there, but it’s fair to say your sort of in a Western phase right now. Was this born out of your experience on Django? Did that experience form this one? Do you see them as linked?
Quentin Tarantino: Yeah, almost like these two characters, there is a chain that connects Django to this one. I guess I am in a bit of a Western period right now. Part of the idea was the fact that normally I’d been doing a movie in a genre that I know what I want to do, but I don’t know how to do it. Like, say, shooting the big martial arts scenes in Kill Bill. You learn how to do it. I learn on the job. I figure it out. I’m proud of it, but then I don’t do another martial arts movie. Same thing with the car chase in Death Proof. In this one I learned how to do a western and I realized I wasn’t done with the genre. I wasn’t done with what I felt I had to say.
One of the things I had to say in this regards was a dealing with race in America, which actually a lot of westerns had avoided for such a long time. I think I had more to say. There was also something else about Django, too. You’re dealing with such a big subject, as far as slavery in America. As fun as Django was, it was this downer sword of Damocles hanging over the whole thing that you always had to deal with. You had to deal with it in a responsible way. There was actually an aspect of The Hateful Eight, even though I deal with similar issues, I could just let it rip. Just do my western without having this History with a capital H hanging over the whole piece.
For Kurt and Jennifer, your characters are linked, sometimes physically by chain, for extended periods of time. Can you talk about the pros and cons, the challenges of that kind of working relationship?
Kurt Russell: At first, when Jennifer and I started to rehearse, we didn’t really think there would be much of a problem with the chain. We didn’t think it would represent anything, either. Nothing could’ve turned out to be further from the truth. Everything that we did was formed by how that chain was dealt with. So we had to learn to get the Fred and Ginger that held them together. (ed. note: dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were famous for moving around each other rhythmically as one.)
So for me there was John Ruth and for Jennifer there was Domergue. Together we were going to be this team. If you’ve been chained together for like a week and a half, 24/7, you get to know a lot about that person. The Stockholm syndrome is going to set up pretty fast. And it did. The fact is that over a five month period of time, the Stockholm syndrome between Jennifer and I set up and it informed everything that we did.
I can’t recall a character quite like Daisy that I’ve seen in a film, at least not for some time. Is it all on the page or are the influences that Quentin mentioned or that you found helpful for your approach at this character?
Jennifer Jason Leigh: So much of it obviously is on the page, because you are dealing with such a great script and such a great character. With Daisy there is a lot that is mercurial and we had to find. We wanted to find it together. So much of Daisy is informed by John Ruth, because she is always reacting with him because of what he’s done. The chain. The hits. What mileage she can get from that. She thinks she’s a lot smarter than John Ruth… and actually she is. She feels like she’s playing him in a lot of the movie. What’s so great about doing a Tarantino movie, and what’s so great for all of us actors, is that we are always being surprised by everything. There’s a moment where it all shifts where John Ruth isn’t just a putz, a fool that she is just so much smarter than. He’s suddenly very smart and very dark when he goes and gathers all the guns from everyone. Then she has to re-judge him, just like everyone else in the movie.
Everyone in the movie is terrible and hateful. Everyone in the movie you also care for. They have their weaknesses, the good part of them in a certain way. I just remember the day we shot that scene, because Daisy’s having a blast. I mean, yeah, she’s going to the gallows, but she knows she’s not going to the gallows. She’s going to figure it out. But in that moment it’s not so clear anymore. That was so exciting as an actress, to not know that was coming. To read it on the page and yet when I felt it happen in the room, I swear my blood went cold. It was just a phenomenal experience.
Kurt Russell: I just want to say one other thing. We haven’t said this, but it was an unspoken thing. This will be the first time she’s heard me say this. Because of who John Ruth was, everything when that clapper goes bang and it’s action: That chain was mine. I own it. Because of that, I felt that as soon as “cut,” that chain was hers. We had to have a balance. I’ll tell you something, I really appreciated what she was going through. When you turned that chain over to the other person it wasn’t easy.
Jennifer Jason Leigh: I’m not as good a dance partner as you are. You’re a much better leader. I’m better at following.
Among the actors here, a lot of your characters are equal parts charming, ruthless and despicable. Do you all consider yourselves the hero in a weird way of this story?
Michael Madsen: I read a biography of James Cagney. He said that if you play somebody who’s very noble, you should probably try to find a mean streak in that person, or something dark that they’re carrying around. If you play somebody who’s very evil, you should probably try to find something good in that person somewhere. There’s always a duality to what you do. The best thing about making a picture for Quentin is that he lets your character have [that] duality, if you’re capable of doing it. He’s the only person I know who can do that.
Michael and Tim, you both worked on Quentin’s first film Reservoir Dogs. For you Tim, I’m curious did this experience feel like apples and oranges or did it feel like pretty much what you remembered from that first experience?
Tim Roth: The man is the same. Yeah, I was around at the very beginning. Then I had this huge break from working with him. So I did get to see in a highly impactful way how his world has changed, how the set has changed. For example, there was always a policy about music playing between set ups. That serves the atmosphere that exists on this set. I had seen that. He’s accrued so much more knowledge of cinema, and how to tell his stories. So I saw a big difference. That was very exciting.
Quentin Tarantino: Yeah well, in particular in the case of Reservoir Dogs, along with the PA’s, I was the least experienced person on the set. Tim and Michael had both made a lot of movies by that time. I was just getting through the process.
Demián, you have worked with some heavyweights. How is working with Quentin compared to any other filmmaker you’ve worked with?
Demián Bichir: The first thing you’re curious about is how everything’s going to work out. Not only because you have this huge director’s name in front of you, but with this amazing group of actors. I remember the first time we had this table reading. You always want to be able to one day say a Tarantino line in a film, right? So I was very, very happy and excited about it. Then to listen to every single line in the mouths and bodies of all these fantastic actors, that was beautiful.
I remember that first reading that we had at this hotel back in Los Angeles, going back home and telling my girl: Everyone is so damn fucking nice. Because a small fish can be lost in a big ocean unless they embrace you, unless they treat you well. The first thing that made me very happy when I actually met Quentin was to find a warm man. A very generous, loving man. The whole thing has been a confirmation of what I thought always, the biggest artists are nicest.
For you Mr. Dern, you’ve worked with [Alfred] Hitchcock, you’ve worked with [Elia] Kazan. You’ve worked with the finest filmmakers in the history of the media. What are the connections that you see between Mr. Tarantino and those?
Bruce Dern: I have been very lucky in my career. But this guy, he does a couple things the others I’ve worked with didn’t do. He has the greatest attention to detail I’ve ever seen. Burt Lancaster once told me it’s [Luchino] Visconti. [Tarantino will] take a seat by Visconti, trust me.
The other thing he does is he gives you an opportunity as an actor – and everybody behind the camera as well – a chance to get better. The material is so good, so original, so unique if you will, that the big part of it is that you’re so excited that he chose you and not Ned Beatty or Jimmy Caan. (Everyone laughs.) You’re excited to go to work everyday. I had that with Mr. Hitchcock for a few days. I felt it everyday with Quentin. You’re excited to go to work everyday, because he just might do something that’s never been done.
Walton, in Quentin Tarantino’s set, would you ever suggest an alternate line?
Walton Goggins: There’s no improv in this press conference. He wrote everything that I’m about to say. (Everybody laughs.) No, why? Why would you mess with perfection? We can say that, because it is. It’s every actor’s dream to get an opportunity to say a Quentin Tarantino monologue, or a line of dialogue. There is no need to change, even add an “and,” or a “the,” or a comma. It really is perfect, the way that it comes out of his imagination.
There is a group calling for a boycott of this movie. They don’t want the members of the police unions across the country to see it. Do you think it’ll hurt your launch? Is there anything you can say to put their mind at rest?
Quentin Tarantino: Well, I’ve dealt with it in quite a few different venues. I don’t think I just need to keep reiterating that aspect of it. Look, I hope that doesn’t happen. I really do. Just because some union mouthpieces are calling for a boycott doesn’t mean all the different officers on the street are going to necessarily follow suit. I have to say it’s kind of a drag, because the statements I’ve made I believe are very true. I intend to go maybe further with that as time goes on. Nevertheless, I think you can actually decry police brutality and still understand that there is good work that the police do. I think I’ve made that pretty clear.
I also do know that there’s a whole lot of police out there who are real big fans of my work. I just hope that they’re not going to take Patrick Lynch’s word for what I said. What I said is what I said. You can actually look it up and read it. I’ve actually clarified my comments since then. Not walking back at all, just a little bit more clarification. I still stand by what I say. I think there’s a lot of good cops out there and they should agree with what I said, if they’re coming from the right place. So I guess we’ll just see.
You said you were not done with westerns yet. Will your next film also be a western?
Quentin Tarantino: We’ll see. Actually, the third western could be a TV thing. I’ve owned the rights for a while. I get them and I lose them and I get them and I lose them. There’s something about the piece that demands that I make it. There’s an Elmore Leonard book called Forty Lashes Less One. I actually think if you want to call yourself a western director today, you need to do at least three westerns. I mean back in the 50s it would be like 12, but in today’s it’s three. I mean if you really want to put your western’s on the shelf with people like Budd Boetticher, Anthony Mann and [Sam] Peckinpah and stuff.
I would really like to do Forty Lashes Less One as a mini series. Like hour episodes. I’d write it all and I’d direct it all, but maybe it’s four or five hours, something like that. If you’ve ever read the book, it would fit right along the lines of Hateful Eight and Django. It deals with race. It all takes place in Yuma Territorial Prison. It’s a really good book and I’ve always wanted to tell the story. So, we’ll see. I’m hoping I’ll do that eventually.
Even though it was for TV, would you shoot on film?
Quentin Tarantino: Oh yeah, absolutely. I’ll never shoot on digital.
Tim, did you see any similarities between God of Hell and your character?
Tim Roth: I think just the duplicitous nature of the character. There’s a similarity of that. That’s interesting. I haven’t thought of that [film] in a while.
Where did you come up with the idea of doing a closed country house murder mystery as a western?
Quentin Tarantino: I just thought it would be a good idea for the story. I thought it would be very interesting. One, the story just kind of lent itself to it at a certain point. Also, frankly, it was just I like mysteries. They haven’t done mysteries in a long time and I think they’re just very entertaining. I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, at least in the first draft of the script. As I was going, I just dealt with everything as it went. I’m writing the stagecoach part and that’s just that. Then we get to Minnie’s Haberdashery and there’s four people waiting. I didn’t even know who those four people were. I wanted to be as in the dark about them as the audience would be – and as the characters in the stagecoach would be – and just have the reveal themselves to me little by little by little.
Then by introducing that mystery aspect, I just thought that would be a lot of fun. Like I said, I think that especially when you haven’t seen a mystery done at the movies in a long time it could be a really entertaining experience. I remember after I gave Sam Jackson the first draft of the script, I go to him and go: So what’s your favorite part of it? He goes, “Well, I like when I start figuring shit out and I turn into Hercule Negro.” (ed. note: That was a play on the name of Agatha Christie’s detective character Hercule Poirot.) That’s what we called that character through the whole shooting. (laughs)
Since this has been such a love fest, can you talk about how you developed the animus among you actors? What did you do to up the tension and anger and nastiness?
Quentin Tarantino: It’s just in part and parcel to the material. This was the case of Reservoir Dogs, too. There’s a similarity to this and Reservoir Dogs, to some degree. I don’t think I even understood the dramatic structure and one of the reasons why Reservoir Dogs worked so well when I wrote it and did it. After hearing people talk about it, I kind of figured it out. Since then I’ve worked on that same principle. Like, in particular, the basement scene of Inglourious Basterds. Now it’s something I do. I believe that suspense can be like a rubber band. You just keep stretching that rubber band. Using the basement scene as an example, that best scene could be a five minute scene, or a six minute scene or a seven minute scene and that would be good. If I can stretch that rubber band to 25 minutes and it still holds, it doesn’t snap, well then it should be better.
I’m taking that very idea to its conclusion by making a movie this long. If that rubber band doesn’t stretch, maybe it’s kind of a boring movie. Part of what’s going on, part of that rubber band is the threat of violence. That is just hanging over the movie and hanging over the characters. Violence doesn’t even need to happen, but you’re prepared for it to happen. You don’t know where it’s going to come. You know it’s going to be horrible whenever it does. But exactly when and how and who, you’re not so sure. Frankly, if I don’t pull that off and if these guys don’t pull that off, then maybe the movie’s not so good. Maybe it’s going to be dull. So I’m betting we’re pulling that off.
Kurt Russell: John Ruth carries that ball. He’s the only one that carries that ball. The rest of them are pretending to be who they’re pretending to be, whoever that is. I think the most extreme example of it actor-to-actor is in all honesty when I am going to walk over and talk to Michael Madsen. He’s Mr. Blonde (ed note: Madsen’s character from Reservoir Dogs) and I’m Snake Plissken (ed note: Russell’s character from Escape From New York). There’s going to be some fucking problems. Michael is a fantastic energy. He’s a force as a human being. I’m more of just an actor. I’m not Snake Plissken. Not anymore. But I didn’t want to let Mike down or let Quentin down. You’re going to carry that with everybody.
That was challenging for me. That wasn’t easy, with my personality, to go over and just be so bombastic and seriously confident. It was my first experience in a long, long time to relish working with actors that all I had to do was talk to them. Listen, I’m just going to be my guy. I don’t have to do anything for them, don’t have to pull for them as an actor. You guys know what I’m talking about? When you start pulling for another actor, like: Come on, man, come on, bring it. You’re like: oh, come on! You could just go hold your own and go do your thing. That was exciting as hell. That was awesome to do that with every character and every actor in this. These guys are great.
Quentin Tarantino: That was one of those things. We did a three-day rehearsal before we did that script reading. I wrote John Ruth for Kurt. I wrote Joe Gage for Mike. The first time they got to that scene and we read that scene, it was just like: Oh, woah! Snake Plissken is challenging Mr. Blonde. Holy shit!
Bruce Dern: There’s one thing I want to say. The man obviously has a magnet. What the magnet does to actors is you’re so drawn to him. My main reason why is his reverence for what went before. His respect for the industry is just mind boggling and he means it. If you dare question him, he will put you in your place and tell you facts about stuff you never even knew was made. That was a delight for me. There’s that kind of thing you don’t get very often.
Kurt Russell: To speak as well just really quickly, Quentin also visually takes you through an experience as an actor. The sequence of shots that comes out of his imagination, it allows for this strange kind of adjustment. It’s like this improvisation physically with the written word that you just don’t anticipate. You don’t want to have the right answers. It could go anywhere. One experience for me in particular was the dining room table. We’re sitting at the dining room table and have this rather innocuous conversation with Chris Mannix (ed note: Goggin’s character) and Domargue. We’re just back and forth. Then with Tim, with Oswaldo.
Then something happens in the movie and he comes back. He sits down at the table. But what Quentin had me do was just so fucking cool. There was a bowl here. I come back. I pick up the bowl. I just take it without any explanation, no commentary and sit down at the end. Before anything comes out of my mouth, the way that you told that story, you know he’s about to stir the pot. It’s about to go here. Literally three sentences in to Major Warren, Sam knows exactly where it’s going. I had no idea he was going to do that. It just happened for everybody at the table except for him. That was just Quentin you know.
How difficult and/or easy was it, or how important was it for you to get Ennio Morricone to score this film?
Quentin Tarantino: It was a dream. It was a dream. We had made overtures towards working with each other the last couple of movies, in particular Inglourious Basterds and Django. They never quite worked out per se, because of the timing and schedules. Also that’s not really how I’ve ever done it before. So maybe I’ve always had a little trepidation to do it that way, even though I would explore it. But it just didn’t happen. With this movie, I just had a little voice. I had a little voice in my ear that said this movie deserves its own score. I take nothing away from the other movies that I’ve done using other scores. I think that those are right for them. I didn’t hear that voice then and whoever uses it best gets it, as far as I’m concerned. But in this one I just had this little voice. This material deserves its own theme, its own piece of music that is its own personality.
He was very interested and so I took the first step. The first step was actually just translating the script into Italian and sending it to him. We sent it to him and he read it, and his wife read it, and his son read it. They all liked it. His wife really liked it. I think that went a long way. Then we got together. I went down to meet him in Rome and went to his lovely, beautiful apartment, maybe the greatest apartment I’ve ever seen in my life. We were there talking about it and I go: So what is it you see, or hear? He goes, “Well I have this idea for a theme and it’s…” He didn’t hum it or make his sounds and stuff, he goes, “I just see this like driving, driving forward. It’s like the stagecoach moving through the snow, moving through the snow, moving forward moving forward. But it also is ominous sounding and suggests the violence that will come.”
At first, because he didn’t think he had time, he was only going to write one [song]. Just the theme and that was it. I ended up seeing him the very next day at the Donatello Awards, and he goes, “I’m going to write you more. I’m going to write more.” So literally seven minutes of music became 12 minutes of music, became 22 minutes of music, became 32 minutes of music. I think he sat down and just got inspired. The way it worked though – and again he’s cool this way, because he wants to keep it the way you’re used to. He actually didn’t see the movie until in London just the last couple of days, so he didn’t so he didn’t score to scenes or anything. He just scored to this script.
He wrote a couple of pieces of music that he thought could be really good for the material itself, but not scene specific. About three suites like that, and then some other music that he thought I could use for emotions. He gave it to me based just on the script and let me take it and put it into the movie the way I’ve always done before. It ended up being a very, very lovely encounter. Now I’m looking forward to having him do the score before I even shoot the movie, so we can actually really get down to it. It’s become a lovely, lovely relationship. I kind of cherish it actually. Not kind of cherish it, I do cherish it.
You mentioned a live read earlier. You had this experience getting an audience’s response to the script before it committing it to film. Did you alter anything based on that?
Quentin Tarantino: We altered a lot, because it was only the first draft. One of the things about the movie is I wanted to do three different drafts of the film. This live read was just from the first draft. Which was different from what I normally do. Normally, I write these big, long, unwieldy novels. There’s the beginning and the middle. The middle’s always great because now you’ve committed to writing so much. You know more about the characters than you ever could before you start writing. Then there’s the end. By that point, the characters have just taken it, so they always dictate the ending, to me.
I’m doing genre movies, so I have an idea where I’m going at the end. Like at the end of Kill Bill, I thought it was very possible she would kill Bill. (everyone laughs) But how, why, exactly how you feel about it: that was very open to question. That’s one of the reasons that I like genres, because I can explore a lot of different things, but still have a road that I’m travelling, to some degree or another. This one I wanted to do differently. I wanted to spend time with the material. More time than I normally spend – i.e. from the beginning, middle and end.
I wanted to even go through the process of telling the story three different times. Just to give you an example, in the first draft, the Lincoln letter – which is a motif that plays out through the film – was only dealt with once. It was in the stagecoach. I knew I wanted to do more with it, but I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have any obligation to do it in the first draft. I could find it on my own. Then in the second draft, it appeared at that dinner table scene. In the third draft, it appears later. the way you see it in the movie.
Just to give you another example, Daisy’s end in the third draft is what is in the movie. [It] was where I thought I wanted to go in the first draft, but something stopped me from going there with her in the first draft. I almost felt I didn’t have the right to do that to her yet, because I didn’t know her well enough. Not by just the first draft. I wrote the whole second draft from Daisy’s perspective. Just emotionally, not in a tricky pros way, just in an emotional way, so I could really get to know her. I wanted to be on Daisy’s side for an entire draft of the story, so I could really feel I knew her. Then after I felt I knew her, I could do what I needed to do to her in the third draft. (laughs)
Some critics are calling The Hateful Eight a horror film. Do you agree with that?
Quentin Tarantino: It was really interesting. Me, Tim, Walt and Kurt just got back from the press and the premieres in London and France, and Mad Movies, which is sort of like the French Fangoria, they’re not the first people to it bring up: “Hey is this your first horror film?” A couple people had brought it up. There are definitely horrible moments in it to be sure, but it was surprising how it was a theme in France. I mean every interviewer came in, (uses French accent) “It’s a western, but horrific.” They really kept hitting on this horror film aspect.
That actually does to some degree or another play into it. I don’t think this is that influenced by that many other westerns, but one movie it’s definitely influenced by is John Carpenter’s version of The Thing, which also had Kurt Russell and also had a score by Ennio Morricone. Now that actually makes sense, because this movie is very influenced by Reservoir Dogs and that was influenced by The Thing. I mean there’s obviously trappings of the characters trapped in one room. There’s a lot of paranoia going around. Nobody can trust anybody. There’s a horrible blizzard going on outside.
But the biggest influence when it came to that was the effect that The Thing had on me the very first time I saw it in a movie theater, on opening night. I think that was actually the first time I could break [a movie] down in a more critical way. The effect of a film – i.e. the paranoia was so strong between those characters. It was trapped in such an enclosed space. The paranoia just started bouncing off the walls, until it had nowhere else to go but through the fourth wall and into the audience. That was the effect I was going for with The Hateful Eight, to have that kind of feeling.
In the music, the overture suggests an Italian horror film.
Quentin Tarantino: Oh absolutely. That’s for damn sure. I didn’t expect Ennio to give me a western score. I think a movie with Terence Hill called A Genius in 1973 or ’74 was his last official western score. He always said he didn’t want to do westerns anymore. So even though this was a western, I wasn’t expecting a score similar to like Two Mules for Sister Sara or anything like that. I was figuring it was going to be dark.
That’s the way he described it, but he gave me a horror film score and sometimes even a giallo score. (ed note: Giallo is a 1960s & 70s Italian horror subgenre.) There’s even elements of a giallo score in this. Giallos are usually mysteries. There’s even a black glove killer in my movie. It’s one of those things where you see the killer with the black glove. It’s like, okay, I can’t wait for them to show more of the characters so I can see who wears a black glove. Then, oh shit, everybody’s wearing black gloves.
Jennifer, in terms of building up violence and tensions, you mentioned a little bit before about playing a character who had several dimensions to it. Daisy wasn’t 100% rotten. Where did you find your sympathy with her? Was it just that she dealt with rough, hateful men her whole life?
Jennifer Jason Leigh: No, actually…. You’ve all seen the movie, so I guess I can give stuff away…
Quentin Tarantino: No, no, no, not so much, because they’re going to write about it if you tell them. (laughs)
Jennifer Jason Leigh: I’ll just say that Daisy has very strong loyalties. I think she has a very good heart. I think she has a big heart and a good heart. I do feel that about her, I mean as crazy and wicked evil [as she may be]… (Everyone else laughs, disagreeing.)
Quentin Tarantino: I really do not agree. That’s her job to feel that way…
Michael Madsen: Sure…
Quentin Tarantino: Well but in that same vein, I will point [something] out and I’ll say it so you guys can print it and I don’t ruin any of my surprises. I’ll talk a bit in code, but if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll get the code.
There’s these killers in the movie that do some horrible murders and you see it. You absolutely see these murders. It’s one of the more horrific parts of the film. At the same time, they’re the only people that do anything for anybody else in the whole movie. They do it for her. As far as they’re concerned, if they have to kill every son of a bitch in Wyoming, that’s what Wyoming gets for trying to hang her. So there is that dichotomy in every character and every situation that happens. There also is on the other hand. You might think the other hand is bullshit and not worth it, but there is another hand.
I thought Daisy was more like a tarantula getting ready to strike.
Quentin Tarantino: Where I was coming from when I actually wrote her, things evolve as she goes on, but to me she was like a Manson girl out west. My starting off point was Susan Atkins.
Did you have The Magnificent Seven in mind?
Quentin Tarantino: Not really. The thing about The Magnificent Seven, I’m thinking a team working together. This is just that in title, not execution.
Have you thought about doing horror? I thought Death Proof was something of a horror film.
Quentin Tarantino: I don’t know. Death Proof is my little deconstruction on the slasher film genre, so absolutely. But I don’t think I have the right temperament to do something like say, The Exorcist. That’s all about one tone of dread that carries through. I just like breaking them up a little bit. If I were to do a horror film, it would be something like that, but I don’t think I have the right kind temperament. I like going up and down and up and down. I think that may take away from the horror.
What genre would you like to try next that you haven’t done yet?
Quentin Tarantino: It could be fun to do like a 30s gangster movie, like a Bonnie & Clyde or Dillinger. The guys with Tommy guns and stuff. That’s something I haven’t done. That would be cool.
Just quickly about the 70mm. The format is glorious and you can see immediately how it changes the views from the outside. What challenges were there maximizing the inside shooting in the smaller set?
Quentin Tarantino: To me it helps everything out, especially when you’re in the situation where you always want to keep track where the other characters are. I guess that’s kind of setting up that chess board to one degree or another. With somebody like [cinematographer] Bob Richardson, who lights it fairly well, I love the compositions. I thought that part wasn’t hard at all. The only difficulty was I had gotten used to using a zoom and we couldn’t get a zoom for it. But that’s actually kind of cool, because maybe I’ve been relying on it a little too much. You definitely can’t use a steady camera with it, so we used a crane like it was a steady camera. (chuckles)
Where does your inspiration from all of this come from?
Quentin Tarantino: It was actually kind of funny because both Bruce Dern and Kurt Russell were in a lot these. I’ve watched a lot of episodic western shows from the 60s, like The Virginian, High Chaparral and Bonanza and stuff. I found myself watching the episodes that had really cool guest stars in it, like James Coburn, or Robert Culp, or Vic Morrow (ed note: Morrow was Jennifer Jason Leigh’s father). People like that. I noticed that when you watch those episodes, if Robert Culp was a guest star, the story was about him. If he was on The Virginian, the story was about him, not Doug McClure. Doug McClure knew him and was helping him, but the same thing kept happening. Claude Akins, all of them.
When it was a special guest star, they were always strangers. They came into town. You never really knew who they were. Some past about them was revealed at some point in time, and how true or not true it was, you had to watch the whole episode to find out. Oftentimes you never knew if they were a bad guy or a good guy until the end of the episode. You didn’t know if Doug McClure was going to end up being a friend or end up killing him. A little part of me thought, those are really interesting characters, what if I took eight characters like that and trapped them in a room? But no Michael Landon, no Little Joe, no Doug McClure, no Trampas. No good guy, no hero, no moral center that the audience could move towards. Just let those characters hash it out. That actually was the starting point. That’s what got me to sit down and put pen to paper.
It’s so challenging to shoot winter, why did you decide to set it then?
Quentin Tarantino: Well, I haven’t spent that much time in the snow in general. The snow western is its own little subgenre unto itself, with André De Toth’s Day of the Outlaw or Sergio Corbucci’s Il grande silenzio. They’re very bleak and pitiless movies. Also, with the idea of shooting 70mm, the mountains, the blizzard, the snow and especially that stagecoach moving through it would give it a big visual look. Even when you’re inside, the outside is always going on. To me, the blizzard is like a monster in a monster movie. It’s always outside. It’s raging, truly raging. It’s angry and it’s waiting to devour the characters if ever they leave.
This is the sixth film you’ve done with Sam Jackson. As a director what’s your opinion on how he has evolved as an actor from when you started working with him? Also, if you were casting this movie 15 years ago, would his character have been quite as large? How would that dynamic be different, if you think it would be different?
Quentin Tarantino: That’s actually interesting, because I think when Sam came out of his mother’s womb the doctor said, “Mrs. Jackson, you just gave birth to a two-pound baby actor.” I don’t know if Sam has gotten to become a better actor as time went on, because I think he was always really great. But his stature has risen and his persona has become bigger and bigger and bigger. I love him because nobody says my dialogue quite like the way Sam Jackson does. The dialogue is not poetry, but it’s poetic, it’s not song, but it’s musical – and he sings it. He gets that across in it. It’s not stand up comedy, but it has a comedic rhythm and he nails that fairly well.
Also, both me and Sam are huge Lee Van Cleef fans, so there definitely is this tip of the bat wings to Lee Van Cleef in his characterization. Even the way we did the look. It’s interesting you ask that – I don’t know about 15 years ago. I thought, especially using that Virginian idea that I was talking about, I speculated if I was doing this movie in 1969, who would I cast as some of the different characters? I could see some of them. I couldn’t figure out exactly 100%. I could see Claude Akins as John Ruth. He’d be a great John Ruth. I could see Bruce Dern as Chris Mannix. I could also see Bruce Dern as Jody to tell you the truth. Vic Morrow as Jody, I think he would be terrific. I could see Robert Culp as Joe Gage. And frankly if I was casting in 1969, I would probably cast Bill Cosby as Major Warren. (laughs)
About the contemporary cowboy songs, and newer musicians scoring westerns – I’m thinking Bob Dylan in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and Leonard Cohen with McCabe and Mrs. Miller. What was your thought process with the Jack White song and selecting the contemporary songs?
Quentin Tarantino: Well something about that song. I had another song in mind all through the shooting, but this was literally a song that somebody gave me on a mix tape back at the time that I was doing Kill Bill. All of a sudden it just hit me. I started playing it and I really liked it. It’s done with the kind of instruments that doesn’t make it anachronistic, so it didn’t break you out. It’s not like putting in Metallica. It fits in. But I also like that fact that it actually played like an interior monologue of Daisy. It makes that sequence Daisy’s sequence.
Is there some “Pirate Jenny” in there from A Threepenny Opera?
Quentin Tarantino: Oh, I hadn’t thought about that before, but I will take any Brechtian reference you want.
Is it literally Daisy’s theme?
Quentin Tarantino: No, but if you listen to the lyrics in association to where Daisy is thinking at that point in time about somebody coming to rescue her, basically it’s the Domergue clan talking to her. “Don’t worry honey, it’s rough, it’s tough, but we’re comin’ to get you baby, we’re comin’ to get ya.”
Can I quickly ask you about old screenplays that you’ve maybe not quite released? I remember when you wrote Inglourious Basterds, you started way before it came out. And you wrote this really, really, really long thing that became different. Would you ever release the original version that you wrote back in the 90s?
Quentin Tarantino: Yeah, well we published Inglourious Basterds. The thing is though, the huge stuff that I took out would make its own movie. It followed a bunch of black troops that were court-martialed. They were going to be hung. They were in France and they were going to be hung in London. They escaped and their whole thing was trying to get to Switzerland. They ended up getting caught in an adventure. They meet the Basterds and everything. I ended up taking all that out. So I could still do that. They were called The Killer Crows. I’m not done with it. That’s the closest thing that I have a big piece of material that hasn’t been done before. I would still need to end it and relook at the whole thing again, but that could happen.
Did the film turn out ultimately how you envisioned when you started months or years prior to shooting?
Quentin Tarantino: Yeah, the answer is absolutely, but also the movie needs to become the movie. You need to make it. When I’m thinking about it in my room, even when I’m writing for Kurt Russell, then there’s actually working with them. They all pull it together. You want the movie to have its own personality as it goes and I’m very happy that it did that.
Do you enjoy the post production process? How does it compare to the production part for you?
Quentin Tarantino: To me, it’s always a situation where the writing process is fantastic. I love that. That’s my favorite part, when I’m doing that. Then just as I’m getting tired of it, sick of it, I’m done with it. I don’t really like pre-production because I want to get into it right away, but then I start shooting and that’s fantastic. And just as I’m getting sick of it, usually, we’re wrapping it up. Same thing with editing. Now that’s my favorite process as I’m doing it. Then just as I’m getting sick of it, we’re done. I like the sound mix. I like the color timing. But those three – writing, shooting and editing – those are my favorites.
Harvey Weinstein said that this is your most political movie to date, do you agree?
Quentin Tarantino: I do think it is my most political movie to date. I don’t know if that was what I was thinking about as I sat down with a bunch of pieces of paper and just started putting the pen to it. But it became that. I remember when it really came to me was when Warren and Chris Mannix have their “political discussion,” to put a name to it, in the stagecoach. When I finished writing that, I was like: Oh wow, this is kind of relevant to today. This is almost a blue state/red state western kind of deal.
I thought that was actually kind of neat, because one of the things about westerns is they really, really reflect the decade in which they were made. If you look at the westerns that were the most popular in the 50s, they really reflected an Eisenhower ideal and this perceived sense of American exceptionalism and prosperity. Of us thinking we won the World War II by ourselves and then the whole rise of the suburbs and the supermarkets and all that. So that was that, but then if you look at the westerns of the late 60s through the 70s, that was a very cynical time in America. It was a very jaundiced time and the westerns reflected that.
In the movies of the 50s we lifted up characters like Wyatt Earp, Jesse James and Billy the Kid. Then in the 70s we tore them down and showed them for what they were. That almost vindicated our own cynical views of America. That just tells you what the 70s were like. They deal with Vietnam. They deal with campus unrest. They deal with Watergate. Bruce Dern did a movie called Posse, directed by Kirk Douglas, that is a Watergate western in every way shape and form.
So that blue state/red state thing, I thought, oh wow! It made me think that maybe I’m doing a good job, because I’m connected to the zeitgeist. Nevertheless, after the script was over and we started shooting, the events that had been happening in the last year and a half that we’d been watching on TV just made everything seem more relevant to what we were doing to a degree that maybe we didn’t realize when we started.
I just want to ask you about Fred Raskin and the editing.
Quentin Tarantino: Oh, Fred is great. He’s my new man. It was one of the tragedies of my life to lose [longtime editor] Sally [Menke] the way I did. (ed note: she died from excessive heat after getting lost while hiking in 2010.) [Fred] was an assistant on Kill Bill. I didn’t want to start working with somebody I didn’t know before. We worked on Django and we got together great. Then I worked with him on this and it was just a joy. It was a joy and a dream. One of the things about him that I just love is he gets my material – i.e. he laughs and smiles at the same lines again and again and again, no matter how many times we hear it. I’m always laughing and smiling, so you could work for four months with the guy and he laughs at the same jokes every single time it plays and smiles at the same jokes every time it plays. You can’t ask for any more than that in an editor.
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 24, 2015.
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